Habit. When you’re going to work, do you always drive the same route? Listen to the same radio station? Sit in the same seat on the train?
How much do you do in life out of pure habit? A lot, if you’re like most people.
Social media is starting to offer exciting new ways for people to break their habits – and it’s something those involved in behavioural change should sit up and take notice of.
Traffic, trains and unexpected stairways
Consider this scenario: you’re driving to work along your usual road in the morning rush hour, bumper to bumper.
Irritating, isn’t it.
You’re in a real rush to get in, so after ages getting nowhere, you decide to park your car on a side street and do something you never do – catch the train to work instead.
When you get off the train, you walk down the street a little and around the corner, you see a staircase you’ve never seen before. It looks like it might be a short cut, so you walk up it.
Doing so, you find a beautiful park. It’s full of people on their way to work, dog walkers taking a quick stroll and paths that lead this way and that. It can’t be more than 5 or 10 minutes walk from your office but you’ve never even seen it before.
Habit can sometimes blind us to things that are on our own doorsteps.
Habitual behaviours are often not conscious – so to change them requires that you first understand you’re doing something on autopilot.
Those who work in the field of behavioural change understand this all too well – as Triandis’ Theory of Interpersonal Behaviour shows, breaking habits are vital if you want to influence people’s travel behaviour.
Traditionally, campaigns to influence people’s behaviour are conducted offline, for example through TV advertising, and aim to encourage people to scrutinise their behaviour.
But now social media is offering an exciting new approach to this aimed directly at making you recognise and alter your habitual behaviour.
Meet GetLost bot
One example is GetLostBot. It describes itself as ‘a free service that challenges you to break your routine and explore new places.”
Once you sign up, GetLostBot keeps an eye on the places you visit. If it feels that you are going to the same places too often, it challenges you to try somewhere different.
You will receive a message with some mysterious walking directions. It asks you to follow these to discover a place nearby that you have never been to before.
Imagine if this emerging technology, perhaps combined with incentives, could be used to encourage people to scrutinise their habits. They may break out of their routines and try a different way to get to work.
GetLostBot is just one example of the way social media is helping influence people’s behaviour. But are behavioural change campaigns changing to incorporate social to reflect this?
About Qube Media and behavioural change
Social media is changing people’s behaviour already – and Qube is at the heart of this change.
Those looking to influence people’s behaviour are increasingly turning to social media and it is playing a much larger role in supplementing and complementing traditional offline behavioural change campaigns than ever before.
Over the past few years, Qube Media has run a number of successful behavioural change projects utilising the social web, covering areas such as public health, immunisation, sustainable transport and health & fitness in the over 50s.
It’s become a clear area of expertise for us that we are expanding rapidly. If you are interested in using social media to influence behavioural change, please contact me for a chat.